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Doug Weight wants Islanders to play harder defensively

Slow starts have plagued the Islanders, who have allowed 35 goals in the first period, tied for most in the NHL.

Islanders head coach Doug Weight looks on in

Islanders head coach Doug Weight looks on in the third period of a game against the Capitals at Barclays Center on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

After the back-to-back losses to the Stars and Blue Jackets the previous two nights, the Islanders’ inability to keep pucks out of their net has reached a critical level.

There’s plenty of blame to go around as the Isles kick off a five-game homestand with the Kings coming to Barclays Center on Saturday, but the Isles’ 2-5-1 slide has Doug Weight and his coaching staff searching for the zest for defending that the Isles have shown for scoring goals this season.

“We’ve proven we’re going to score goals and have opportunities, that’s a good thing,” Weight said after an optional practice at Northwell Health Ice Center on Friday. “To me, we need some more meat and potatoes. We need more predictability, we need more mash. We’ve got to get back to that 200-foot, hard game, and that feeds our top guys. We need some guys to be professional, get pucks in. Professionalism, stability. We need to be able to pour guys over the boards and play a harder game.”

The Islanders made a couple of roster moves after Thursday’s 6-4 loss in Columbus, sending Josh Ho-Sang to Bridgeport for the second time this season while calling up veteran forward Steve Bernier. Ho-Sang had gone six games without a point and he didn’t play much during the final period on Thursday.

“He’s gotta go play some hockey and get his game going,” Weight said.

Bernier, 32, has 10 goals and four assists in 21 games for the Sound Tigers this season. He last played in the NHL for the Islanders in the 2015-16 season.

Ho-Sang is certainly not alone in slumping of late. Mathew Barzal was on for the first two Columbus goals, both by defensemen jumping off the point. Thomas Greiss gave up five goals on Thursday, the third consecutive start that’s happened, but he was the only reason the score wasn’t worse than 3-0 after one.

The common theme through most of the losses in the last eight games is slow starts. The Islanders have been outscored 35-29 in the first period this season, the 35 goals allowed is tied for the most in the NHL.

“Sometimes I think we just have to make the simple play, get the puck out of our zone when we can instead of trying to do a little too much,” Jaroslav Halak said. “Especially at the start of the game. We give the other team a lot of confidence if we turn the puck over and give them chances right from the start.”

Notes & quotes: Weight said he hadn’t decided on a goaltender for Saturday. Halak was pulled after allowing four goals in 29:21 on Wednesday . . . Thomas Hickey (upper body) is eligible to come off injured reserve on Saturday but Weight said the defenseman isn’t ready to return yet. With Bernier up, the Isles are at their 23-man roster limit . . . Johnny Boychuk took Friday off after being shaken up in the second period in Columbus but Weight was hopeful he could play on Saturday.

New York Sports